WOMEN'S CONDITION OVERVIEW

 

In terms of gender discrimination, HDI and GDI, Nepal unfortunately remains amongst the least developed South Asian countries.

Human Development in Nepal

(Human Development Report 2004)

Human Development Index

0.471

Human Empowerment Index

0.463

Human Poverty Index

41.2

Gender Development Index

0.452

Gender Empowerment Measure

0.391

Nepali women are victimized, frequently subject to discriminatory traditions and, compared to men, highly illiterate and with less access to health services, property, skill development and decisional working positions.

Gender Discrimination in Nepal

A strong patriarchal social system is still prevalent within the country.

Daughters are generally not considered as independent family members, their ultimate designation primarily being that of marriage in a context in which the bride must prove purity, the possibility of an adequate dowry, and submission, highlighted by the widespread denial to marital choice, since her wedding day. This directly leads to early marriage (the average marriage age for women is 16 and 52% of women begin childbearing before 20 years of age) as well as accentuated gender discrimination towards widows.

The latter are deprived of land, primary access to property and working activity, with their husbands' death or following a divorce. Analogously, inheritance rights to paternal property are frequently denied, in favour of close-related male family members. The obvious consequence is that of a hindered access to economic independence and a continuous menace of extreme poverty.

Alongside such denial, is the impotence towards freedom of fertility choice, contraceptive devices and access to reproductive health services, especially in those areas in which gender discrimination and misconception of disorders affecting the reproductive system are frequent and widespread.

Health and Gender Discrimination

Over 80% of Nepal's population lives in rural areas where geographical, economic and cultural barriers limit basic medical. The recently suspended armed conflict exacerbated the lack of health workers, facilities and supplies, increasing the burden of the most common diseases. As of today, most Nepali hospitals are located in urban areas and most of the existing rural facilities lack funding, trained staff and medicines.

It is estimated that 600,000 Nepali women in reproductive age suffer from a prolapsed uterus, an extremely serious pathology which not only causes physical pain and unbearable distress, but also inevitably leads to extended infection. In remote rural areas uterine prolapse is more widespread compared to urban centres and it is furthermore aggravated by a virtually absolute lack of gynaecological assistance as well as by gender discrimination.

o   Maternal death rate is the highest in south Asia, accounting for an average of 539 yearly deaths per 100,000 women

o    Neonatal mortality rate registers 39 deaths for 1000 live births

o   70% women childbearing are anaemic

o   27% newborns are underweight

o   Only 53.4% women receive antenatal care

o   A mere 13% of overall deliveries are assisted by trained personnel (while 27% of female death is attributed to delivery)

o   46% maternal deaths are due to bleeding

Gender- Based Violence

Rape has become in Nepal almost an endemic disease which affects women's' lives from their childhood both in rural areas and in urban centres. HELP/Nepal's attention has been drawn towards hundreds of files related to female abuse - most concerning girls aged less than 15 and young mothers.

Nonetheless, most sexually abused women do not receive health or psychological aid, nor are they granted support for social rehabilitation. Gender-based violence remains frequently unaccounted for both in the domestic and in the public arena.

In all societies, not to mention in Nepal, rape victims are psychologically devastated, socially emarginated, physically ill (in some cases also affected by HIV): their basic rights are completely withheld.

Abused women therefore flee their homes and seek divorce regardless of the awareness of the consequential poverty and discrimination, becoming easily subject to trafficking and unjust working conditions.

Female Employment

The lack of access to education and to public services in general greatly inhibits access to political, administrative and business decision-making positions, generally already denied to women on the basis of their gender. Added to this, are social expectations which exclusively handle household responsibilities to wives, further causing restricted mobility compared to males.

Business opportunities in general are frequently denied to Nepali women, aggravated by difficulties in accessing credit, marketing networks, and technology along with restricted mobility and risk-taking possibilities.

A direct consequence is a notable income-gap, deriving from an evident disparity in working opportunities.

More than 40% Nepali women are economically active. Most of them are employed in agriculture, working primarily as unpaid family workers in subsistence agriculture with low technology and primitive farming practices.